Rhona Mühlebach

Muehlebach rhona portrait by alan dimmick cahiers dartistes pro helvetia

Thoughtful perspectives on lost emotions, language, and humour

Rhona Mühlebach knows that nature, in all her beauty, does not have a sense of humour. She is devoid of irony, empathy, kindness, or cruelty. Despite this emotional vacuum, interacting with the wilderness can be a deeply moving experience, allowing us to empathise with the natural world in a profound way. This semi-mystical ability to connect with nature serves as the philosophical foundation for the video works of artist Rhona Mühlebach. The artist crafts her work in English, employing unexpected moments of linguistic trickery that unveil multiple layers of meaning, suggested by the subtlest of intonations in the artist’s voice. Such artworks, and the artist’s own performance, breathes a new kind of life into what might otherwise be painted as still and sombre natural landscapes. Perhaps by introducing a small self-deprecating joke while considering the dignity of an ancient pathway, or comparing the tragedy of total ecological collapse to a hot drink left to go stone cold. Mühlebach spreads a certain dry humour throughout each work that brings perspective and clarity to crucial questions about the effects of human interaction with our environment, and our perceptions of the wider world outside of our control. With a characteristically dead pan delivery of devastatingly funny quips and of seriously scary statistics, they inject depth to the conversation surrounding the relationship between humans and nature. Through her work, Mühlebach challenges us to consider the true nature of our relationship with the natural world and to reflect on the fundamental role it plays in our lives.

How not to conduct a relationship with a bird

Muehlebach rhona loch long cahiers dartistes pro helvetia

Each of Mühlebach’s artworks seek out the truth of a thing, by using a set of tools that we can try to understand; the artist’s own feelings. First crafting her poetic verse, then the words are set to music, each score created by long term collaborator William Aikman whose melodies lift and amplify what would otherwise be a purely literary message. We hear that this collaboration to create true song features throughout the artist’s oeuvre. Rhona Mühlebach has an established range of emotions, employed to great effect in such works as To Get in Touch with Crows (2016), where the artist strikes up a series of relationships with the birds. In such encounters, we find a contrast between a familiar world built upon human emotional intelligence, and the alien experience of the distinctly non-human birds. Yet despite the absolute conviction with which the artist presents these feelings, there are strong satirical undertones that allow for an even deeper investigation of humanity’s relationship with nature; our demands and desires on the natural world, and its inability to match our expectations. Somehow, we are able to confront this bleak concept with a slight smile, wondering if were we to find ourselves with a sleeping avian in our arms, would we have done differently to Mühlebach, and make a friend for life. Another example of a prominent animal voice is that of the wild pig that peppers the Neanderthal’s Aria (2021) with commentary in the form of helpful hints, and good advice. In an artwork set ostensibly under the shadow of an electricity generating wind turbine, a Neanderthal analogue of the artist herself, sings longingly of lost emotions, feelings that once were felt and have since gone extinct. The nameless pig, appearing both as a prehistoric line drawing and as the disembodied talking head of a Scottish man, offers an absurd running commentary on the hopeless search of our heroine. These comic interludes act as an intrusion into what is otherwise a deeply moving lament to that which has been lost to time, forcing consideration of supposed human sophistication in relation to our ancient ancestors.

Text by Jonathan Ferguson

I approach serious subjects through intentionally serious playfulness as a way to create a direct, emotional contact with its subject matter.

Rhona Mühlebach

Biography Rhona Mühlebach

born 1990 in Zurich, Switzerland


2015-2017 MFA, Glasgow School of Art, UK

2011-2014 BA Cinema, ECAL University of Art and Design Lausanne, Switzerland

2010-2011 Foundation Year Cinema, ECAL University of Art and Design Lausanne, Switzerland

Exhibitions (selection)

(upcoming) CCA Glasgow, United Kingdom (SOLO)
(upcoming) Auto, St.Gallen, Switzerland

Vögel, Adolf Dietrich Haus, Berlingen, Switzerland
Hadithi Hadithi, LUX Scotland & Ajabu Ajabu, online United Kingdom / Tanzania
Neue Kollektion, Kunstmuseum Thurgau, Switzerland

Swiss Art Awards, Basel, Switzerland
Excitement Is Not Part Of My Feeling Repertoire, Kunstraum Kreuzlingen, Switzerland (SOLO)
Salon at ABA Berlin, Germany

Labor Natur, Haus zur Glocke Steckborn, Switzerland
Loch Long, Sic! Raum für Kunst Luzern, Lucerne, Switzerland (SOLO)
Shapes of Water, Travelling Gallery, Scotland, United Kingdom

Werkschau Thurgau, Kunstraum Kreuzlingen, Switzerland
Loch Long, Intermedia Gallery CCA, Glasgow, United Kingdom (SOLO)
The River, the Horse & the Woman, Alchemy Film & Arts, Hawick, United Kingdom (SOLO)
KAMERAS, Kunstraum Kreuzlingen, Switzerland
Labocine / Imagine Science #32, online

Joburg Fringe, Johannesburg, South Africa
Eriazo, Neues Kino, Basel, Switzerland
Swiss Art Awards, Kiefer Halblitzel, Basel, Switzerland


Studio grant Belgrade from the Canton Thurgau, Switzerland

Shortlisted for Margaret Tait Award, United Kingdom
Cahiers d'Artists, Pro Helvetia, Switzerland

Adolf Dietrich Förderpreis (grant), Switzerland
Shortlisted for Swiss Art Awards, Switzerland
Special mention, Glasgow Short Film Festival, United Kingdom

Support grant from the Canton Thurgau, Switzerland
AiR Berlin Alexanderplatz (residency), Berlin, Germany

Studio grant New York, Cultural Office of the Canton Thurgau, Switzerland/United States

Cove Park Bridge Award Residency for Emerging Artist, United Kingdom

Best short movie, International Film Festival Cairo, Egypt
Newcomer award SUISSIMAGE / SSA, Solothurn Film Festival, Switzerland

Audience Award, Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur (short film festival), Winterthur, Switzerland
Premio Action Light for the Best Swiss Newcomer, Festival del Film Locarno, Switzerland
Cinema e Gioventu Best Swiss Short Movie, Festival del Film Locarno, Switzerland

Portraits by Alan Dimmick (above) and Ralph Ribi (on artists' overview page)

Muehlebach rhona excitement fahne kunstraum kreuzlingen cahiers dartistes pro helvetia

Works by Rhona Mühlebach

  • Muehlebach rhona this is excitement flag cahiers dartistes pro helvetia

    This is Excitement

    2021 / Flag with digital print on weather resistant polyester / 300 x 80 cm / 118.1 x 31.5 in

  • Muehlebach rhona neanderthal wall hanging II cahiers dartistes pro helvetia

    Neanderthal Wall Hanging II

    2021 / Reactive print on silk viscose velvet / 72 x 94 cm / 28.3 x 37.0 in (framed)

  • Muehlebach rhona neanderthal drawing ll cahiers dartistes pro helvetia

    Neanderthal Drawing II

    2021 / Pencil and crayon on paper / 48 x 36 cm / 18.9 x 14.2 in (framed)

  • Muehlebach rhona neanderthal drawing lll cahiers dartistes pro helvetia

    Neanderthal Drawing III

    2021 / Pencil and crayon on paper / 48 x 36 cm / 18.9 x 14.2 in (framed)

  • Muehlebach rhona neanderthals aria video cahiers dartistes pro helvetia

    Neanderthal's Aria

    2021 / Single screen video, HD 7'9'' / Dimensions variable

  • Muehlebach rhona excitement is not part of my feeling repertoire cahiers dartistes pro helvetia

    Excitement is not Part of my Feeling Repertoire

    2023 / Giclée print on Hahnemühle Photorag paper, vinyl stickers / 40 x 58 cm / 15.7 x 22.8 in (framed)

  • Muehlebach rhona to get in touch with crows still cahiers dartistes pro helvetia

    To Get in Touch with Crows

    2023 / C-Type photo print of video still on Fuji Gloss paper / 32 x 38 cm / 12.6 x 15.0 in (framed)

  • Muehlebach rhona sudden death still cahiers dartistes pro helvetia

    Sudden Death

    2023 / Giclée print layered with screen print on Hahnemühle German Etching paper / 29 x 46 cm / 11.4 x 18.1 in (framed)

  • Muehlebach rhona the five sisters cahiers dartistes pro helvetia

    The Five Sisters - Map

    2017 / Video loop, iPad mini, iPad charging cable, wooden frame / 27 x 32 x 6 cm / 10.6 x 12.6 x 2.4 in (framed)

  • Muehlebach rhona sudden death video cahiers dartistes pro helvetia

    Sudden Death

    2020 / Single screen video, HD, 9' /

  • Muehlebach rhona to get in touch with crows video cahiers dartistes pro helvetia

    To Get in Touch with Crows

    2016 / Single screen video, SD, 6' /

  • Muehlebach rhona excitement is not part of my feeling repertoire cahiers dartistes

    Excitement is not Part of my Feeling Repertoire

    2021 / Two channel video installation, 26' / Dimensions variable

Cahier d'Artiste by Rhona Mühlebach

Obstacles for Cows, 257 x 364 mm, 100 pages (published by Jungle Books)

Rhona Mühlebach holds a Bachelor of Arts in Film from the École cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL) and earned a Master of Fine Arts from the Glasgow School of Art in 2017. Her work includes video, audio, text and installations. Rhona’s work is informed by her interest in relationships between humans, animals, plants and landscapes. She creates fantasies that expand our incomplete understanding of the world we live in through fiction and narratives. Emotional interpretation takes the place of rational evaluation. Her working method assumes that social and historical narratives are subject to constant and diverse (re)interpretations over time.

Rhona Mühlebach’s Cahier is entitled “Obstacles for Cows” and consists of eight music notebooks combined in one book. The scores presented in the ‘notebooks’ are based from her screenplays. She selected passages from dialogues and arranged them – following a graphic system similar to a notation – over multiple pages. The dialogues were also typographically adapted to the characters’ way of speaking, with notations added by composer William Aikman (Glasgow).

The publication format itself also evokes a music notebook, drawing readers into the eight scores and inviting them to reinterpret these scores.

Although Rhona Mühlebach’s Cahier d’Artiste originates from her films, the publication makes only sporadic visual references to them, through eight images. An essay by Chloë Reid appears throughout the publication on each ‘notebook covers’, tying the whole together. Chloë Reid (Johannesburg) is an artist, author and curator. Her main interests include the everyday life’s sociology and the relationships between reading, writing and artistic practice. She holds a BFA (2011) from the Cape Town School of Fine Art and an MFA (2017) from the Glasgow School of Art.

Rhona Mühlebach is part of the Cahiers d'Artistes selection. Eight artists were chosen by a jury to realize an artist book with the support of Pro Helvetia. Their artistic practice is presented online on TheArtists.net.

With the Cahiers d'Artistes, Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia enables artists from Switzerland to have their first publication and offers art professionals and the interested public a window to current trends in the Swiss art scene. For the first time, the Cahiers d'Artistes are not pure monographs, but artist books designed and produced by graphic designers Samuel Bänziger, Rosario Florio, and Larissa Kasper (Jungle Books) in close collaboration with the artists. More about the Cahiers d'Artistes on Pro Helvetia's website.

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